The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 1:00 am

Sculptures tell more of Hamilton ladies' story

Martha Barnhart

There is additional rich history of early Fort Wayne residents, centering on the three Hamilton women whose statues are located at Headwaters Park, that was not covered Jan. 5 in the lengthy book review on “The Education of Alice Hamilton: From Fort Wayne to Harvard.”

Paul Helmke, Geoff Paddock, Ian Rolland, Patty Martone and a host of other local leaders recognized the need in the late 1990s and took the challenge of securing funds of nearly $300,000 through corporate and individual donations for the 30-acre downtown Headwaters Park and flood control project. They saw the project through from start to finish.

Martone, a retired educator full of energy and enthusiasm, often dressed in period costume portraying Alice Hamilton and presented programs to local organizations and schools to share the history and to raise awareness.

The proponents of the project researched the history of the Hamilton women and secured an appropriate location for the bronze statues of Alice and Edith, the two Hamilton sisters, and their cousin Agnes, to make this project come to fruition, even selecting the sculptor. The Hamilton statues are the first public sculptures in Fort Wayne recognizing women.

Alice Hamilton was an influential physician and established reforms for unsafe working conditions in factories. She was the first female faculty member at Harvard University. She was a social welfare reformer, humanitarian, peace activist, and a resident-volunteer at Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago that provided social and educational opportunities for primarily working-class immigrant European women and children.

Her sister, Edith Hamilton, was a scholar who wrote the leading book of Greek mythology. Their cousin Agnes, who held a close bond with the two sisters, was an accomplished painter; was a child advocate who founded and was first president of Fort Wayne's YWCA; established a library; was a social worker through the local Presbyterian Church; and also was associated in a settlement house.

The local history of our three Hamilton ladies and others who have made lasting contributions to Fort Wayne and to the nation is best learned from pylons with historical plaques along the walking trail and Hamilton Sculpture Garden in Headwaters Park, from the Chief Little Turtle Statue to the three – often overlooked but well worth the stroll – statues of Alice, Edith and Agnes Hamilton.

Martha Barnhart is a Churubusco resident.


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